ReTargeter Blog

Conversion Tracking- Engagement Events & Your Retargeting Strategy


As an advertiser, it’s imperative to thoroughly analyze the journey of your customers as they move through the buying cycle. In order to optimize your digital marketing strategy, you must understand how to keep in step with your customer’s needs—what piques (and holds) your customers’ interest? What can you do to adjust your marketing strategy in order to validate successful campaigns and identify ones with low ROI?

Tracking primary and secondary conversion events gives you the opportunity to understand the behavior of your customers as they move through the buying cycle. When used in tandem with attribution and incremental lift, you can better dedicate your marketing spend only to efforts that work well for your brand.

First and Foremost—what are
primary and secondary conversion events?

A primary conversion event refers to your brand’s main marketing goal —aka the primary action you want your site visitors to complete. This could be something like completing a purchase, filling out a contact form, or requesting a demo.

Secondary conversion events, or engagement events refer to actions that, despite not being the end goal of your digital marketing strategy, imply a user is moving through the buying cycle. A secondary conversion event might be something like downloading a white paper or signing up for an email newsletter.

For example: a primary conversion event that an e-commerce retailer might track would be when a customer completes a purchase. A secondary conversion event for this same e-commerce company might be that the same site visitor signs up to receive an email newsletter . Signing up for a newsletter might not be the main action an advertiser wants a site visitor to complete, but if visitors who sign up for email newsletters have a higher probability of completing a purchase, then it is a secondary conversion event that is worth measuring and trying to optimize.  

Is it really that simple?

Yes and no. The above is a simplistic theoretical example of primary and secondary conversion events, but applying the practice to your marketing strategy in reality is more challenging–it requires time and resources to uncover what works. Let’s dive a little deeper into how primary and secondary conversions can optimize a digital marketing campaign strategy.

Secondary conversion events can be active or passive. For example: downloading a white paper from a site would qualify as an active secondary conversion event, while being on a site for an average of five minutes would qualify as a passive secondary conversion event. Remaining on a site does not require a site visitor to complete a particular action, but it is still something that can be tracked in order to gain insight.

For example: let’s say that a B2B company (let’s call them Company X) would like to test the idea of running webinars in order to see whether they are a worthwhile marketing effort. In order to do this, Company X creates both primary and secondary conversion events–in this case let’s say the primary conversion event is when a site visitor requests a demo from Company X, and the secondary conversion event is when a site visitor attends a webinar. Company X will then link these conversion events together by comparing the correlation of how many customers viewed a webinar before requesting a demo.

By linking these conversion events together, Company X is looking for two things in particular: first, how many more people who attended the webinar (the secondary conversion event) requested a demo (the primary conversion event). Company X then will compare this number to the number of people who didn’t see the webinar but became customers anyway, thereby calculating the incremental lift between those two user groups. If the number of users that became customers from the group that attended the webinar is higher than those that became customers from the group that did not attend the webinar, then it’s clear that webinars are a worthwhile marketing effort.

The second thing Company X is looking for is whether the cost of producing the webinar is more expensive than the revenue generated by customers who attended the webinar. If the cost is higher than the revenue, then clearly webinars are not a worthwhile marketing effort for Company X to pursue.

How to measure primary and secondary conversion events

In our blog post about frequency and recency capping, we discussed the importance of identifying your customer’s unique purchase journey before establishing frequency and recency caps. Having a clear understanding of this purchase journey is key to successfully avoiding ad fatigue and oversaturation.

Conversion tracking–like frequency and recency–is directly related to the purchase journey of your customer, as it gives insight into the ways that you are successfully reaching your customers—and the ways you’re not.

There are many ways to measure the success of your ad campaigns, and conversion tracking is only one piece of the puzzle. Metrics like attribution and incrementality go hand in hand with conversion tracking, and it’s important to track all three in order to get an accurate idea about the success of your marketing spend.

Attribution and incrementality complement each other–both give advertisers the opportunity to test the success of their marketing efforts using information gained from primary and secondary conversion tracking. Attribution examines the customer journey in depth in order to more accurately determine what part of an advertising campaign can be held responsible for getting a site visitor to complete a primary conversion. Incrementality allows you to calculate the incremental lift between those who completed a secondary conversion and then became customers vs. those who became customers without completing a secondary conversion. You then can determine whether your secondary conversion is actually driving more people to become customers.

Determining attribution using primary and secondary conversion tracking and subsequently calculating incremental lift is the most thorough way to track the success of your digital marketing campaign strategy.

How to identify secondary conversion metrics.

Let’s say that Company X has determined that webinars are a worthwhile marketing effort for their business.

Seeing what kind of customers attend webinars is the next step Company X would take as a secondary marketing effort, after already determining that people who attend webinars are more likely to request  a demo. In other words, Company X has determined that there is a positive correlation between attending a webinar as a secondary conversion event and the primary conversion event of requesting a demo.

It is a frequent practice for marketers to use insights gleaned from tracking primary conversion events and engagement events to understand applied business intelligence. Using this information can help you build an intelligent digital advertising strategy that takes your business intelligence and applies it to your customer journey.

Advertisers who have taken the time to analyze their customer journey often have a pretty good idea what their customers need in order to make an informed purchase decision, but this knowledge can always be supplemented as the customer’s buying cycle evolves. Working in the programmatic advertising space helps advertisers test those needs through an automated advertising campaign that can accurately track consumer behaviors and associate them with converted customers.. The marketing initiatives that significantly influence consumer behaviors can then be considered secondary conversion metrics.

Conversion Events and Audience Segmentation

A key aspect to consider is audience segmentation. Audience segmentation refers to the process of dividing users into subgroups based on criteria such as demographics, site behavior, or interests. Once you have identified whether a secondary conversion is driving primary conversions, you can then use audience segmentation in order to identify the specific audience you would like to target with this particular secondary conversion effort.

For example, after Company X has determined that webinars are a valuable marketing effort, they can then study the demographics of the people who tend to attend webinars before requesting a demo. By understanding their webinar audience in this way, Company X can improve the design of their webinars in order to more accurately target the audience who is most likely to view them.

Using secondary conversion events to segment your audience based on their likelihood to complete these conversion events gives you valuable intelligence. For instance, you can separate users into groups with higher purchase value, or create user groups who are more likely to convert without engagement events. After strategically separating your audience into segments, you can better target them with the ads that will most likely cause them to complete a purchase. In addition, you can track the effect on users’ conversions when they’re placed into certain groups.

As long as you keep the importance of audience-specific targeting in mind from the beginning when identifying your secondary conversions, audience segmentation will occur almost naturally as you implement your marketing strategy.


Primary and secondary conversion tracking can be used at any stage of your digital marketing campaign strategy–whether you are simply trying to test whether a marketing effort provides a positive ROI or if you are testing different levels of audience segmentation in order to better target already receptive audiences to more efficiently send them through the purchase funnel.

As a best practice, it is a good idea to place multiple secondary conversion pixels at once in order to test more than one metric. Placing multiple secondary conversion pixels allows advertisers to test the relevance of how different conversion events perform against each other. In other words, you can test multiple marketing efforts (such as webinars vs. white paper downloads) against each other in order to see which are more effective at driving users to complete your primary conversion.

You can also create multiple conversion events and target them to different audience segments in order to test against each other. This works best after you have already used secondary conversion tracking to test your different marketing efforts against each other. For example in Company X’s case: different audience segments might be impacted differently by webinars vs white papers, therefore Company X can use conversion tracking to more effectively design these materials and target the most appropriate audience with each one.



Case Study – Watters

Watters Logo | ReTargeter

Watters is the brainchild of designer Vatana Watters. For over 30 years, it has been the leader in offering luxurious designer bridal gowns, innovative bridesmaids dresses, classic special occasion dresses for mothers of the wedding, and adorable dresses for flower girls and junior bridesmaids around the world. Selling primarily at trunk shows and in third-party […]

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